Healed Wounds But Injured Minds: The Research World of Therese Richmond
Once your serious traumatic injury -- upper leg bone shattered by a bullet, arm crushed by a workplace machine, skull cracked by an 80-mile-a-hour windshield impact -- is healed enough for you to return to your real life, will it really BE your real life anymore?
This painful question and the complex tangle of emotional and psychological after-effects it refers to has been at the center University of Pennsylvania professor Therese Richmond's research for decades. And it's the subject of a lengthy interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, is Associate Dean for Research and Innovation at Penn's School of Nursing, a professor at both the Nursing School and Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, and an LDI Senior Fellow. She is also the founder of the Penn Injury Science Center that studies the mental consequences of traumatic body damage.
The need for better treatments for the psyche-altering residuals of such injuries is illustrated by the simple statistic that one in ten U.S. adults seek medical care for traumatic injuries every year. And the full extent of the mental health aspects of the recovery process is still not well appreciated or adequately addressed by the current system.
In her interview with Inquirer reporter Sandy Bauers, Richmond noted that a study she's just completed found that 30 to 35 percent of the people who survive traumatic injury developed significant levels of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also said that patients' families are often not prepared to recognize or deal with the psychological symptoms of these injuries' after-effects.
Intentionally inflicted injuries
She pointed out that intentionally inflicted injuries -- like shootings or stabbings -- produce more PTSD symptoms than non-intentional injuries.
"We recently studied over 600 urban black men who had been injured," she told the Inquirer, "For many who were intentionally injured, the world had changed. They were less trusting of other people around them."
Traumatic injuries-by-gun account for a significant portion of such intentional injuries and are a major focus for Richmond. "At the Penn Injury Science Center, we're really interested in how we can decrease injury and death from gun violence," she said. "We've been pretty successful in reducing the number of car injuries and deaths but we haven't done that with gun violence."